Second person killed in Panama labor clashes
Sunday, July 11 2010 @ 07:22 am EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Banana workers have been on strike for more than a week in the western city of Changuinola. A protester was killed by a shotgun blast on Thursday. On Saturday, television images showed riot police shooting tear gas and shotguns as they broke through barricades of felled trees and corrugated metal set up by protesters. The president's office did not give details about the person killed on Saturday, who was described by local media as a male resident of the banana growing district. Three police officers taken hostage by strikers were freed after a fourth kidnapped officer escaped, Martinelli's office said.
Martinelli signed a law last month that allows companies to suspend contracts of striking workers and hire replacements. Unions are also upset because member dues are voluntary under the new law. In another smoldering labor conflict, some workers laid down their tools on Saturday at the Panama Canal expansion project in central Panama, deputy labor minister Luis Ernesto Carles told Reuters. Earlier in the week, dozens of striking workers on the $5.25 billion project were fired and several were arrested for refusing to return to work after authorities brokered a deal to improve work conditions. "Where we are still having some interference is in the Atlantic part" of the expansion project, Carles said, adding the project was suffering from partial work interruptions. The Panama Canal has remained open throughout the dispute.
(Reporting by Sean Mattson; editing by Jason Lange and Mohammad Zargham)